Relationships matter every bit as much as rights. Citizenship means having rights, but it also means belonging. Belonging in schools and universities, in places of work and places of worship, in politics, art and commerce; belonging in family, community and nation. Our rights as equal citizens, arguably, should get us in the front door. But once we are inside, our citizen's place of belonging assures us (or ought to) that we will be valued and heard.
The role of citizen is one of the most important roles each of us plays in society. Caring citizens are the glue that holds our communities together. But what does it mean to be a citizen - and more particularly, a caring citizen?
Many people think of citizenship in fairly narrow terms. You're a citizen because you're born into a country, or you've immigrated and been granted the legal status of "citizen". It's understood that as a citizen you have certain rights, and that with those rights go certain responsibilities, but that's about as far as our thinking often goes.
Citizenship is much more than that. Modern thinkers like Mark Kingwell, Catherine Frazee and Michael Ignatieff are rescuing the concept from the confines of law and government and reconceiving it in terms of participation, contribution and belonging. In this view, citizenship is not something you audition or train for, not something that's conferred on those who are deemed "deserving". It's something that intrinsically belongs to everyone.
Philia embraces this broader understanding of citizenship, and we want to join with others who are interested in exploring all its dimensions. What we're aiming at, ultimately, is a new definition of citizenship that is fully inclusive; that encompasses rights, responsibilities and access; that recognizes the importance of relationships, contribution and belonging; that welcomes both the diversity of our communities and the diversity of our contributions.
In order to imagine citizenship in this way, we need to ask ourselves some deep questions. Questions like: Who is a citizen? What is citizenship based on? What are its underlying values and principles? What does it mean to be a caring citizen? And how do we fashion a notion of citizenship that is truly inclusive?
We can't answer these questions by ourselves. In fact, we don't believe there is one answer to any of them. What we do believe is that the best and deepest answers emerge out of dialogue. So we set out to create a dialogue on citizenship. More specifically: a dialogue on caring citizenship. In the spirit of dialogue, everyone is qualified to participate. We are "equals, struggling together to make moral sense out of our role, function, and responsibilities as citizens."
Through this dialogue we want to:
Ready to begin the discussion? Click here for our basic definition of citizenship, then read a speech by Catherine Frazee on rights, relationships and their importance for full inclusion and citizenship.
The Caring Citizen
Citizenship is a way of making concrete the ethical commitments of care and respect, of realizing in action an obligation to aid fellow travellers - in short, of fostering justice between persons.
Caring citizenship refers to the bonds and relationships, the network of rights and mutual obligation, that bind members of a community together as active, compassionate and contributing members of society. A number of assumptions and conditions underlie the notion of caring citizenship:
That's how we would characterize the caring citizen. But of course, there's a lot more to caring citizenship than we can fit on this page. Following are some articles and excerpts from authors who have impressed us with their thinking about caring citizenship.
Have a look at what these writers say - and then tell us what you think. How would you define caring citizenship? What are its components? What are the qualities that characterize caring citizens? And what can we do to inspire caring citizenship throughout our society?
Philia . Nourishing Ideas
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